A cutting-edge saltwater fish hatchery is planned for Pensacola, and state officials recently offered a glimpse of what the facility will look like.
“I think you’re going to like what you see today,” said Gil McRae, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, before architects and engineers dug into the specifics of the $18 million project.
Funded by restoration funds related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery and Enhancement Center will be the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s largest saltwater hatchery. It is intended to act as both a hatchery — producing five million fish annually — and educational facility.
The facility will be built to the west of downtown, and to the east of a more industrial area. Its design incorporates both environs, meshing brick and wood with metal.
The center has two floors, with the aquaculture operations accounting for a bulk of the square footage. More than 17,000 square feet will be devoted to raising fish, while there is about 3,500 square feet of public space, including classrooms, and another 3,000 of offices. Some of the actual hatchery operation will be visible to the public, while other portions will not.
During the design presentations July 28, members of the hatchery planning committee inquired about a couple of the project’s particulars. They were interested in the number of parking spaces planned for the site, and how the use of a “shallow foundation” will lead to the gradual sinking of several inches over the course of decades.
And they were interested in how the site’s waterfront connected with neighboring properties, like Maritime Park. Or rather, how it won’t.
“There’s no connection on the actual waterfront?” board member Tony McCray asked for clarification.
“No,” replied Dave Hemphill, a project manager with Baskerville Donovan.
“That’s sad,” McCray said.
“That’s money,” Hemphill told him, adding that there was the option of securing the easements to allow for such connectivity.
Without the waterfront connection, the hatchery’s beach will be accessible by crossing the facility’s property. The property will include features such as an LED-lit footbridge.
“When you’re in the middle of Washerwoman’s Creek you won’t believe what you’ll see,” Hemphill said, describing the bridge. “There’s a lot of wildlife.”
McCray said he was still “very interested in the easements along the waterfront.”
“I would at some point like to hear what that cost would be,” he said.
The next meeting to review the fish hatchery plans is scheduled for August 31 at 9 a.m. at Pensacola City Hall. Design work is expected to be finished up by the end of the year, with construction stretching into 2018.